Should My Daughter Get the HPV Vaccine?


Since the HPV vaccine became widely available in recent years, many physicians are offering it as an option to adolescent girls and young women. Whether or not your daughter should have it is something that you must decide with the advice of your physician.

If your daughter is not sexually active there is no reason for her to have the vaccine. However, if there is any chance that she will be, the HPV vaccine may be worth considering because it can offer substantial protection against cervical cancer in years to come.

HPV – or human papillomavirus – is a group of strains of a virus that all affect the outer skin layers. The virus is spread by skin to skin contact and by surface to skin contact. Researchers have identified over 200 strains to date; most of these show few or no symptoms and clear up themselves after a few months.

A few strains cause cases of common warts on the hands or feet. Other strains cause genital warts. Over 40 of the strains are sexually transmitted, and in fact HPV is considered to be the most common STD on the planet!

Since over 70% of us will acquire some strain of HPV in our lifetimes – many of us more than once – and since many infections show no symptoms, the chances that your daughter acquires some type of HPV is very high.

The chances that, if she is sexually active even once, she will acquire an STD type of HPV, is over 50%. There is no real way to be sure that a sex partner is not carrying a strain of HPV, and no way for your daughter to know when she has been infected.

Several types of HPV have been identified as being high-risk for the development of cervical cancer. These strains lay dormant in the body for years after the initial infection, until eventually they can cause pre-cancerous lesions on the cervix, and if left untreated full-blown cervical cancer.

Researchers believe that HPV Type 16 and Type 18 are together responsible for over 70% of all cervical cancers. The HPV vaccine protects specifically against these two types.

Whether or not your daughter receives the vaccine, it is important that she be educated about HPV, which can be spread through any type of sexual activity, including oral sex and anal sex. It can be spread through penetration by objects that are contaminated with the virus. Condoms do protect, but not completely. The more partners one has, the higher risk. The less faithful one is, the higher risk. It is always important to practice responsible sex, and safe sex, to avoid infection with any type of STD. To avoid the health issues that can result from HPV infection, it is important that your daughter begin to have annual exams and pap smears, as soon as she is sexually active.

The HPV vaccine comes in two brands: Cervarix and Gardasil. It is important to understand that these protect only against types 16 and 18, but other strains are thought to be responsible – although less commonly – for cervical cancers and cancer of the vagina, vulva, anus, mouth, penis, and throat. The vaccines will not protect against these. If your daughter does get the vaccine, she will need a few boosters in addition to the initial injection, and these should all be of the same brand.